Prov­ince un­load­ing sur­plus turf

The Chatham Daily News - - NEWS - ME­GAN STACEY and JONATHAN JUHA

Huge land parcels, his­toric build­ings and even a ra­dio trans­mit­ter are among the South­west­ern On­tario prop­er­ties the provin­cial gov­ern­ment is un­load­ing as it speeds up the sale of sur­plus as­sets in the face of a $15-bil­lion bud­get short­fall.

The 243 prop­er­ties provincewide — some, al­ready on the mar­ket and oth­ers al­ready sold — in­clude parcels that make up the for­mer Lon­don Psy­chi­atric Hos­pi­tal site, the sprawl­ing for­mer St. Thomas Psy­chi­atric Hos­pi­tal site and shut­down jails in three mu­nic­i­palites across the re­gion: Chatham, Wind­sor, and a for­mer youth de­ten­tion cen­tre in Goderich.

The Wind­sor jail site has loomed large re­cently, with the city want­ing the site’s park­ing lot for vis­i­tors to a nearby city-owned hall and pos­si­bly the jail’s 1877 reg­istry build­ing, but not the fi­nan­cial bur­den of the 1925 jail. Provin­cial of­fi­cials have said they won’t split up the prop­erty.

A gov­ern­ment-owned ra­dio trans­mit­ter in Chatham is also among the sites.

The prop­erty sell-off, to­talling about 5,900 hectares, is ex­pected to bring in up to $135 mil­lion dur­ing four years and save the prov­ince nearly $10 mil­lion a year, the Min­istry of Gov­ern­ment and Con­sumer Ser­vices said.

“On­tario cur­rently has hun­dreds of va­cant sur­plus prop­er­ties across the prov­ince, cost­ing the gov­ern­ment mil­lions of tax dol­lars a year to main­tain,” Gov­ern­ment and Con­sumer Ser­vices Min­is­ter Bill Walker of the Owen Sound area said in a state­ment.

The prov­ince says its stream­lined plan to sell off sur­plus prop­erty will re­duce red tape and “more eas­ily iden­tify which prop­er­ties could be used for af­ford­able hous­ing and long-term care pro­jects.”

Some of the sites listed on the in­ven­tory of prop­er­ties for sale are al­ready on the mar­ket, in­clud­ing the for­mer psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tal on High­bury Av­enue in Lon­don and its lands to­talling about 65 hectares.

That site, com­mer­cially listed for sale at $694,000, has been held up as a site for po­ten­tial hous­ing.

An­other South­west­ern On­tario site on the list, the his­toric for­mer Chatham court­house and jail, re­cently sold for $1 mil­lion.

Closed in 2014, the jail was com­pleted in 1850. One of the men who worked on it, stone ma­son Alexan­der Macken­zie, went on to be­come prime min­is­ter.

Also in­cluded among the prop­er­ties for sale is the On­tario Agri­cul­ture Min­istry’s Wood­stock of­fice build­ing.

Ge­orge Ker­houlas, a sales rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Lon­don with Cush­man and Wake­field, who’s been in the com­mer­cial real es­tate busi­ness for more than 30 years, de­scribed the sale of lands such as the for­mer psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tal site in Lon­don as an in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­nity.

“What a rare and unique op­por­tu­nity to have all that land, com­piled in one spot in the cen­tre of the city,” he said.

The psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tal lands, in par­tic­u­lar, have so much po­ten­tial, Ker­houlas said.

“You can do a lot of good out there, whether it’s com­mer­cial, res­i­den­tial, high-den­sity, low­den­sity, maybe some in­dus­trial uses. It’s just un­lim­ited out there, in my opin­ion.”

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